Tyler Carter is a professional illustrator. He works in the movie industry as a visual development artist for feature animation (his film credits include Peanuts, Epic, and Ice Age: Continental Drift.) After landing internships at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, Tyler began his full time professional career at Blue Sky Studios/21st Century Fox where he works today.
In addition to having an accomplished career, Ty also runs his own independent business as a creator, and, more recently, a teacher. He shares his personal creative projects and offers mentorship to fans via Patreon. Tyler painted a picture of his work in a recent interview:
“I make concept art and illustrations! My Patreon supporters receive full masterclass tutorials detailing my approach, theories and process for creating each piece. My work is for all types of artists, but more specifically illustrators, concept designers, and fine artists. I turn each piece into its own project which includes in-depth tips, case studies, technique demonstrations, thought process, commentary, step-by-step problem solving, and outlines with annotations.”
Becoming a mentor was not always Ty’s plan. In 2013, he was approached to teach on the side at a major online art school. Ty taught there for 3 years and found it extremely rewarding to help students improve their skills and break into the industry as he had done himself.
The most interesting dynamic about Ty’s business on Patreon is that it’s a completely symbiotic membership experience: he helps his patrons become skilled artists and they help him make his living as an artist. It’s an equal and ongoing value exchange.
This dream business scenario doesn’t just come with the snap of a finger, so we thought we’d ask Ty for his insight. Here’s Ty’s tips on the best ways to run a successful membership business as a creator and mentor on Patreon.
Ty’s 5 Tips for Offering Mentorship on Patreon
1. Identify who your fans are
Ty made major progress in his career when he identified that his fans were broken into two groups. Some of his fans support him because they love the art he makes. The second group is made of artists, students, and professionals who are looking to take their work to the next level.
He offers both of these groups a variety of Patreon rewards. This is a good piece of advice for any creator on Patreon, as it helps make rewards exciting for every type of fan.
“Working as a full time visual artist is the best job in the world, but getting there can be tough. My Patreon page allows me to keep creating what I love but also help others get where they want to go. Rewards include detailed explanations to create high quality art through tutorials, files, brushes, demos, and more. Everything you can get in my online shop is given to patrons for a fraction of the cost. It is a simple way for me to say thanks for the support that allows me to do what I love. For the higher tiers, I offer one on one mentorships to provide support, guidance and teaching as artists pursue their own dreams.”
2. Offer rewards that are unique to you
“Give your patrons whatever it is that makes you unique. I always ask myself, ‘is this something I would want?’ If so, I offer it.” Choosing which rewards to offer patrons is a very personal process. Here’s more on how Ty sees it:
“From what I observed, launching a successful page came down to a few things. Patrons want value. They don’t just want to give away money. They’re looking to get something back. When I realized this, I brainstormed skills/knowledge that were unique to me. You know, things that only I could provide to someone. Basically, what makes me valuable. I listed things I learned at the different studios (Blue Sky, Disney, Pixar), like technique, design process, color theory, etc. I expounded artist business practices I developed over the years for freelance, taxes, and conventions. I filled up a page with topics and themes in less than 15 minutes! That was when I launched my Patreon page. I let the patrons dictate the content and structured everything around what I wish I knew ten years ago.”
3. Poll Patrons on what they want
“I love polling patrons on what they want to see next. It is a great way to hear from them directly and learn more about their wants and needs.”
Posting a poll on your Patreon feed is a straightforward way to get input from your patrons. You can always use their suggestions to guide your next project, or to brainstorm a rewards refresh down the road. Using the polls feature lets your patrons know that you care about them, and that you want to deliver the value they’re seeking.
4. Foster a network
Artists in Ty’s mentorship program have gone on to exciting careers in places like Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Dreamworks TV, Disney Interactive, and Sony Pictures Animation. His Patreon page is a place where artists from all backgrounds come together and encourage one another to reach higher. He embraces the fact that, beyond making a deeper connection with him, his patrons can form relationships with one another.
“I just love meeting so many talented artists! Rich cultures are always made up of many different ideas and ethnicities. My Patreon family is from all over the world! This creates a wonderful environment for artists to network with alumni past and present. Many artists become good friends and stay in touch as their careers progress. There is a sense of belonging and unity that we are all in this together.”
5. Your patrons will hold you accountable to your highest goals
The most exciting part of becoming a digital mentor on Patreon is that it’s simultaneously helped Ty grow his creative career. He’s been able to produce more personal projects and improve his skills. Ty’s patrons expect his best work and they hold him accountable to deadlines. In many ways, Ty’s patrons are coaching him right back.
“As for its effect on my creative goals, it has made all the difference. Patreon forces you to set rigid deadlines which are painful at first but quite helpful in making you more efficient. I’ve had more ideas than ever before and feel quite invigorated each week as I’m creating new work.”
Want to say hey? Reach out to Ty Carter here: